Messages such as “Go Green, Go Paperless” are misleading. Two Sides’ new information sheet explains why.

Common inaccuracies about print and paper are still a major issue for the industry. These misconceptions are further reinforced by financial organisations, utility companies and many other service providers, as they increasingly encourage their customers to switch to electronic bills and statements. But instead of focusing on the potential cost savings of digital, often the incentive to switch is based on unfounded environmental claims such as “Go Green – Go Paperless” and “Choose e-billing and help save a tree”.

These messages are unsubstantiated, misleading and can have a lasting effect on consumer perceptions of paper.

The Impact of Greenwashing
Many leading organisations, including banks, utility companies and telecommunications providers, urge their customers to go paperless with claims that paperless bills, statements and other electronic communications save trees, are “greener” and better for the environment.

These statements are greenwashing. These statements are not specific, not supported by reliable scientific evidence or relevant life cycle analyses and are misleading. Without evidence to support the claim being made such communication is Greenwashing and contravenes advertising regulations in most European countries.

These statements are not just misleading but hugely damaging to an industry that employs in the UK alone, 116,000 people (1,096,000 EU), in more than 8,400 business (115,700 EU). Most commonly, the driving reason for this move to digital communication is cost reduction. Greenwashing is costing the UK printing and postal industries an estimated £10 million per annum.

What are the advertising rules for making environmental claims?
According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), marketing claims must be clear, truthful, accurate and not misleading. Marketers must base environmental claims on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the marketing communication states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the life cycle. Marketers must ensure claims that are based on only part of the advertised product’s life cycle do not mislead consumers about the product’s total environmental impact.

What do consumers think when they see environmental claims?
Financial organisations, utilities, telecoms and governments are increasingly encouraging their customers to go “paperless”. But switching to digital is not always welcome as many consumers value paper-based communication.

A survey conducted by Two Sides in 2021 found that 74% of consumers believe they should have the right to choose how they receive communications (printed or electronically) from their service providers. A further 54% believe they should not be charged more for choosing paper bills or statements and 49% agree that when a service provider asks them to switch to electronic bills and statements, and they say it’s better for the environment, it’s really about cost saving.

According to Keep Me Posted, 7 million people in the UK can’t use the Internet, even if they wanted to: because of poverty, disability and rurality. There are over 10.5 million people who lack the confidence to use the Internet for transactions. Together that is nearly 1 in 5 of the British population.

Anti-Greenwash Success
Two Sides actively engages organisations found to be using unsubstantiated environmental claims about the use of paper. To date, over 70% of companies engaged by Two Sides have changed or removed misleading messages.

For all customer facing copy, it is important to avoid making any unsubstantiated claims regarding switching from paper to electronic formats.
– Brendan McNamara, Head of NGO Engagement, HSBC

We are conscious of our overall environmental impact and want to support our customers reduce their impact and want to support our customers reduce their impact too. We do, however, appreciate the environmental impact is complex, and definitely don’t want our communications to be misleading.
– Severn Trent

What to do if you find misleading environmental claims?
Two Sides continues to actively challenge major organisations found to be misleading consumers by using environmental claims about the use of paper. However, we need the help of our eagle-eyed supporters! Keep your eyes peeled for other examples of Greenwash and report them to us.

Please send any instances of greenwash to

more at:

Back To Top
×Close search